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Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2003 Apr;46(1):33-57.

Immunology and immunotherapy of colorectal cancer.

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Unit of Immunotherapy of Human Tumours, Istituto Nazionale per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumori, Via Venezian 1, 20133 Milan, Italy.


This review critically discusses data on immunology of colorectal cancer, starting from pathology and molecular biology, and then considering the molecular characterisation of colon cancer antigens and the clinical trials of immunotherapy. A careful evaluation of histopathological studies on intra-epithelial infiltration by T cells in primary tumours, together with the analysis of HLA expression by colorectal cancer cells, suggest that anti-tumour T cell immune responses may take place in vivo in those patients, influencing prognosis and shaping the tumour immunological profile. Moreover, the molecular characterisation of tumour antigens expressed by colorectal carcinomas, together with improved understanding of mechanisms of the immune response and more sensitive methods for the in vivo detection of T cell responses, are now allowing researchers to design new and more effective vaccination protocols, with encouraging preliminary results. By drawing together the experimental evidence from different research fields, this review provides support for the concept that colorectal carcinoma is immunogenic and may reasonably be considered as a target for immunotherapy, and attempts to address critical issues and envisage future developments in this challenging research field.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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